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139. The Hero

A brilliant light overcame Daniel’s long sword. Its silver edge was wreathed by ribbons of a glowing aura. It coiled up to the tip of the blade, radiating power as it covered the weapon in its entirety. With a single swing, the [Hero] sliced apart three [Wights].

The powerful, mighty undead that had pressed us this far. The ones that moved like an indomitable and relentless force. They were killed in an instant.

There was a ringing in my head. The notification that the undead were slain tolled like a bell, marking their true deaths. It resounded with an echo as the streak of white light slashed forward, its energy dissipating from the initial attack, but still reaching out and pushing the other [Wights] back.

The scattering specks of glowing aura tore into the skin of the undeads. They reeled from the attack— more than they ever had from my [Flaming Breath]. Edithe stared on, mouth hanging agape at the onslaught unleashed with a single Skill.

The Skill of a [Hero].

I took a step forward, creating a Sickle Grenade. However, as the blue embers coalesced into my hand, Daniel leapt back and raised his sword.

“[The Will of the Hero]!”

His voice boomed throughout the cavern. He sounded different— like he was not the same person I knew. There was something in his words that drew me forward. It empowered me, giving me a surge of strength and determination.

Stats:

[Available Stat Points: 0]

[Vitality]: 100 (+5) (+10%)

[Strength]: 80 (+5) (+10%)

[Endurance]: 85 (+5) (+10%)

[Wisdom]: 133 (+5) (+6) (+10%)

[Agility]: 183 (+5) (+10%)

I moved faster— my magic wove together as if I were some kind of master seamstress, working the threads of mana delicately and efficiently to create the explosive weapon. It blazed with the fury of the stars itself. I didn’t even realize that I hadn’t just created the Sickle Grenade by itself. I pulled the flames from the orb hovering around me— stealing its wisps to create something new.

The vigor I felt was electric. A hand rested on my shoulder. Edithe straightened, giving me a nod as I held the Refined Sickle Grenade above my head. My visioned fixed on the [Wights] befre us. There were still half a dozen of them left. I hurled the projectile at them, not letting go of the chains. The sickled edge detached from the fiery links, launching at the undead.

A powerful blast engulfed the [Wights], swallowing them in the blue flames like it was the deepest depths of the ocean. As the inferno raged before me, I held up the chains still clung onto in my hand. It morphed, shifting forms, as if it were growing another blade at its end.

This second Refined Sickle Grenade formed itself far faster than the first. However, just as I was about to toss it at the undead once again, I saw Daniel stepping forward. He met the [Wights] in battle, [Aura of the Sentinel] shining brighter than it ever did. This was his Skill. The Skill of a [Hero].

I let go of the Refined Sickle Grenade. I didn’t want to catch him with my attack. So, instead, I let the spell disperse. It receded back into the small, twinkling orb of flame it came from. It hovered around me, circling me slowly as it took on another shape. I dashed forward, leaving Edithe behind to support my other companion.

The dancing wisp expanded— it grew longer, into the vague shape of an arrow. The Refined Blazing Bolt hung in the air above me, following me as I leapt into battle. It had no bow to guide it. The bowstrings that normally held it were replaced by the mana twines, suspending it in the air as I manipulated it with my fingers.

The Refined Blazing Bolt snapped around me as I tugged the magic forward. It lanced out at a [Wight], boring a deep gash on its side before it flew back, spinning around my shoulders and launching forward again like a slingshot. I didn’t even have to get close to the undead. I could keep them at bay with the spell— it zipped around me like a fly, striking at anything that got too close.

At one point, one of the [Wight]’s managed to close the gap between us. I raised a hand and called the Refined Blazing Bolt back at me. It flew back to my hands, already changing shape back into a kusarigama. But it was not an ordinary kusarigama— its flames were white, the same as the Refined Blazing Bolt. I swung the weapon at the undead’s head. It didn’t even leave behind a cut— it was like it burned straight through their skin.

However, that didn’t stop the [Wight] from inflicting me with its curse. I leapt back, feeling the mana rapidly drain from my body. Before the feeling could sink in for long, I saw a tendril of fire snap forward and actually knock the [Wight] back.

“[Fiery Riposte]!”

Edithe nodded at me, and I grinned. Daniel ran his sword through the falling undead, leaving only a single [Wight] left in the battlefield. He stood across from it, holding his long sword out to the side as he glimmered with a golden aura. There was only one enemy left.

And I was not going to let him get that last kill. The Human man stepped forward as I charged it from behind.

A black light overlayed itself on top of my white flames— the darkness that shone with a violent intensity formed a blade as I leapt at the [Wight]. [Flame Burst] brought me next to it in an instant. I bared my teeth at it, bringing the kusarigama down straight at its head.

“You’re mine— [Radiant Slash]!”

The undead made a hollow noise as it died. It sounded like air escaping from a small tunnel. With that final breath, it collapsed to the ground, sheared completely in half. I grinned, spinning the kusarigama in my hand as I turned around.

It was just Daniel, Edithe, and I now. The [Wights] were defeated. They lay dead all around us. There was nothing left— nothing but an eerie silence. I glanced between my companions, realizing that neither of them were looking at each other.

Daniel shuffled his feet uncomfortably as he sheathed his sword. He opened his mouth as if he had something to say, but nothing came out. Edithe drew her lips into a thin line, wiping the sweat off her brow. Finally, she sighed.

“Well, that was dramatic.”

—--

Defeated [Wight - Lvl. 112]!

More experience is awarded for defeating an enemy at least 20 levels above you!

Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!

Defeated [Wight - Lvl. 108]!

More experience is awarded for defeating an enemy at least 10 levels above you!

Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!

Skill [Star Forge] Learned!

Experience is awarded for learning a Skill!

Cleared [Lair: Haunt of the Wights]!

Experience is awarded for clearing a Lair!

Subspecies [Asura Changeling] Level Up!

[Asura Changeling – Lvl. 92] -> [Asura Changeling – Lvl. 93]

Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!

Subspecies [Asura Changeling] Level Up!

[Asura Changeling – Lvl. 93] -> [Asura Changeling – Lvl. 94]

Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!

Subspecies [Asura Changeling] Level Up!

[Asura Changeling – Lvl. 94] -> [Asura Changeling – Lvl. 95]

Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!

After a brief [Rest], I got back on my feet and inspected my Status. I had leveled three times from this encounter— it wasn’t the most dangerous fight I had ever gotten in. However, it was certainly difficult due to how resilient they were, and how powerful each strike they landed was. We managed to avoid their curses and their chilling touches— which, according to Edithe, was very deadly.

Salvos (Death of the Destroyer)

Species: [Greater Demon of Pride]

Subspecies: [Asura Changeling] - Lvl. 95

General Skills:

[Advanced Mana Manipulation] - Lvl. 6

[Identification] - Lvl. 5

[Racial Skill: Universal Language Comprehension] - Lvl. 1

[Racial Skill: Mortal Form] - Lvl. 4

[Rest] - Lvl. 4

[Lesser Enhanced Wisdom] - Lvl. 2

[Title Skill: Zealous Call] - Lvl. 3

Stats:

[Available Stat Points: 0]

[Vitality]: 100 (+5)

[Strength]: 80 (+5)

[Endurance]: 88 (+5)

[Wisdom]: 136 (+5) (+6)

[Agility]: 192 (+5)

Skills:

[Available Skill Points: 0]

[Advanced Fire Creation] - Lvl. 30 (Maxed)

[Barrage of Cinders] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)

[Ember Core] - Lvl. 15

[Flame Burst] - Lvl. 15 (Maxed)

[Flaming Breath] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)

[Intimidation] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)

[Radiant Slash] - Lvl. 15 (Maxed)

[Self Haste] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)

[Passive - A Hunter’s Sense] - Lvl. 5

[Passive - Blue Flames] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)

[Passive - Weapon Mastery] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)

I maxed out [Flaming Breath] and [Radiant Slash], while raising [Ember Core] up to 15 Skill Points. As for my Stats, I distributed my available points to [Endurance], [Wisdom], and [Agility]. With that settled, I focused on the Skills I had available.

I had two. The first was [Horror’s Flare]. I already knew I had that Skill from when I leveled up. But I had another Skill now. A new one I learned, which came about from studying magic and experimenting. It was [Star Forge]— or the orb hovering around me.

I brought a clawed hand up, tapping it against the blazing wisp of ember. It didn’t feel hot— it was almost like a liquid, with sparks splashing off as I pressed my finger through it. It was interesting that I was awarded a Skill for something I was able to create by myself. Although, that was how it worked with [Fire Strike], wasn’t it?

Maybe if I had available slots, I’d have added it to my array of Skills. Unfortunately, I did not. So, for now, it remained an unused Skill. Just like [Horror’s Flare]. I wonder what it even does. I probably would never find out.

I approached my companions who were seated across from each other, backs resting on the opposite rock walls of the tunnel. Plopping myself in between them, I listened to their soft conversation.

“So… you’re a [Hero]?”

Daniel shifted slightly as Edithe asked the question.

“I am.”

He met her gaze as he spoke. I glanced over at Edithe too. She had heard him call out his Skills— she had experienced the incredible boost to our Stats from one of his [Hero] abilities. And yet, it was only starting to sink in for her.

“I see.”

The red-haired woman drew her knees into her chest, wrapping her arms around them. She said nothing more, and I turned back to Daniel. He opened his mouth, trying to work his jaw. He managed to fix its hinges as he steeled himself. With a deep breath, he spoke out.

“I didn’t mean to lie to you, Edithe. I know I should’ve said something sooner— however, I was used when I first came into this world. Because I was a [Hero]. I thought that… that if I told you, you’d start to see me differently. That you’d use me too.”

His explanation seemed to fall on deaf’s ears. Edithe didn’t visibly react. Her face was shadowed over. The Human man bit his lower lip.

“I know you wouldn’t do that. It was just an irrational fear I had. And even after Salvos kept prodding me about it, I… I was just scared.”

That was it, really. Daniel might have been a [Hero] now. But he was not born one. From what I heard of the Immortal King Alexander, the Oracle of Light Melissa, and the Quisling Zacharius, they were brave, they were mighty, and they were an unwavering force even in the face of their enemies.

Daniel was… nothing like them. Not right now. Perhaps he could be like them in the future. Right now though— he was a coward.

No. I shook my head, correcting myself. He’s an ordinary Human, out of his depth in another world. That was why I made that contract to bring him home.

Nevertheless, he was a [Hero] with powerful Skills. I never knew he had more Skills than just his [Hero’s Slash]! And he endangered our lives on more than one occasion by not using them, just because he was scared. Sure, we made it out of those situations— debatably— just fine in the end. However, there was always the possibility that one of us died, and he could have done something about it.

Daniel realized this as well. I had spoken to him about it, and he knew the consequences of his inaction. Gritting his teeth, he turned away from Edithe, almost shame-faced.

“I know it’s not any excuse—”

And Edithe sighed. It was not a heavy sigh— not one of disappointment. Instead, it was one of relief. She swung her head back, resting her palm on her forehead.

“You’re really a [Hero], aren’t you?”

The Human man blinked. He gave a hesitant answer..

“I am.”

She chuckled, shaking her head.

“All this time I thought I was— but I’ve actually just been competing with a [Hero] and a Demon. Honestly… Xidra was right, wasn’t she?”

Edithe stood up, back straighter than it ever was before. Wiping a single tear from one eye, she fixed a confident look on the Human man. A smile spread across her lips as she spoke.

“Thank you, Daniel. For telling me the truth. And for saving our lives back there.”

She placed a hand on his shoulder, giving him a nod. Daniel stared at her. She just laughed once more.

“A [Hero] and a Demon. And I’ve been keeping up with them…”

“You’re not… mad at me?”

He was perplexed. I was too! I eagerly agreed with him.

“That’s right! You’re not mad at him?!”

“Why would I be?”

She glanced between us, genuine confusion on her face. I exasperatedly gestured his way.

“He’s a [Hero]! He has super [Hero] Skills! But because he’s scared you might find him out, he decided to hide it from you even when we needed it, like with Lucerna and the [Zombies]!”

“Uh, actually I did use [Hero’s Slash] during the fight with Lucerna—”

“Not the point!”

I glared at him before facing Edithe.

“He could’ve just used his [The Will of the Hero] Skill from the very beginning! There was no need for us to exhaust ourselves, risking our lives just because he was scared!”

“We’d still be risking our lives, Salvos. We might’ve been overconfident if he had just given us that boost right from the start. In every battle, any of us can die, even if we have a [Hero] on our side.”

I shrunk back a little bit.

“I know that, but… but he could’ve reduced that risk.”

Shrugging, she started down the tunnel, headed for the cave chamber ahead.

“Maybe. But what’s passed has passed. We didn’t die— sure, there were some close calls. Now though, he has told me the truth. And I’m just glad that I haven’t actually been falling behind. No— not to you, and not to him.”

I watched her as she disappeared in the shadows up ahead. Daniel and I exchanged a glance. The Human man made a sound of relief.

“That… went a lot better than I expected.”

I scowled.

“I’m still mad at you.”

“You can give me an earful later— let’s hurry after her.”

—--

We cautiously made our way through the cloudy water, making sure that there were no [Wights] left hiding in wait for us. The Lair was gone— although we already knew that— and the mist filling the massive cavern was starting to subside.

“All this means is that you could have told Edithe about it earlier!”

“I know, I know.”

“And what even was that Skill, [The Will of the Hero]? We could’ve used it when we were in the Brilsum Ruins!”

“I only got it when I hit Level 70, Salvos. With each Class advancement, I get a new [Hero] Skill. I can’t change them once it’s been chosen, but they also don’t use up a Skill slot.”

I threw all four of my hands up into the air.

“Seriously? That’s so unfair!”

He glowered.

“You’re not one to talk— you’re a Demon.”

“Both of you, shush.”

Edithe glanced back at us, rolling her eyes.

“I swear, you two argue like children sometimes.”

She waded her way out of the water, onto the island at the center of the small lake. I followed right after her, feeling my wet feet sink into the white sand. I focused on the object protruding from the earth just ahead of us.

“There it is.”

The treasures we came for. What was left behind by the Scale Guardians. The thing that could rid the land of the blight plaguing it.

“The Herald’s Brush—”

My eyes narrowed as they settled onto the ‘corpse’ grasping tightly to the first artifact.

“And the Totem of Incense.”

 

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